Yay for my first blog post while in Spain! I still can’t believe I’m actually here. I have been talking about this adventure and have been planning for it for months and months and when the day came that I left for the airport it felt utterly surreal! It has been over a week since I first arrived in Madrid and I’ll just write a little summary of everything I did.
The day of my leaving was a really weird day. Although I was unbelievably excited, I was also really really sad to leave my home, family, and friends. The only time I’ve ever been away from home for an extended period of time was when I studied abroad and even that was only for 4 months. Ten months is a big deal for me and that’s why I think I got more emotional about leaving this time around. I also had a big going away party that weekend (thank you to everyone who came out for that!) and of course that made me even sadder to know that I was leaving such an amazing group of people who love me as much as I love them. But Monday came around and it was time to make the big move. I was very stressed on Monday because I pretty much packed up until the time I left (procrastination at its finest) and I had to squeeze my entire life into one 50 lb. checked bag, one carry-on suitcase, and my backpack. But seven o’clock rolled around and I successfully did it! So off to the airport I went. And after a tearful goodbye with my parents, I boarded my ten o’clock flight headed for London. When the plane took off all I could think was “What the hell am I doing?!?!? Turn the plane around!!!” But there was no turning back!
I arrived in London’s airport the next morning which felt like 5 am to me. I perused the airport and just enjoyed being in the home country of my loves Harry, Liam, Zayn, Louis, and Niall (don’t judge me, I’m not ashamed). I only had a 2-hour layover until I boarded my flight to Madrid. I arrived in Madrid at 4 pm and that’s when the panic set in. “Why am I in a country where I can hardly understand the language?!?!” I heard Spanish all around me and it scared me to death. Sure I’ve been studying it for 10 years now and it was always my favorite class in school, but it’s a whole different situation being thrown into Spain with native speakers. I honestly feel like I know zero Spanish. Not to mention, nobody on my flight could figure out where the baggage claim was, and when you’re jetlagged and cranky, the last thing you want to do is ask important questions in a second language. But we all finally found the baggage claim and I was happy to see my suitcase got to Madrid safely as well. I then took a taxi to my hotel where I booked a private room for the night. The taxi ride made everything better. I was able to have a conversation in Spanish with my cab driver and just driving through Spain made me so excited to be here. I couldn’t believe I was in Spain again. I surprisingly did not feel terribly tired so I walked around the city that evening. I went to my two favorite places in Madrid: Plaza Mayor and Retiro Park. I was in heaven.
The next morning I moved into my hostel which quickly became my new home in Madrid for the next 7 nights. I actually liked it so much that I was very sad to leave it! A ton of people from my program and other young travelers had been staying there and it was a great way to meet people. I stayed in a 12-bed dorm room (6 bunk beds total) with all girls and it surprisingly wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be! It was the right choice to stay there because since it was so social, I never got a moment to myself to over-think things or get homesick, so it made my transition that much easier.
Thursday and Friday morning last week was orientation for my program, BEDA. We met the coordinators that we have been communicating with all year, as well as everyone else in the program. There were about 120 of us in that orientation which were only the newbies placed in Madrid. My program still includes everyone else who are second years or more, as well as new people in Spanish cities outside of Madrid, so overall it’s a pretty large program. Orientation was very boring and a ton of paperwork. But the good thing is that all of the paperwork takes care of getting our NIE (our residency card which allows us to live in Spain for an extended period of time) and our bank accounts, so it’s nice that I don’t have to worry about any of that.
I visited the school that I’ll be working at a couple of times and I officially start there on Monday. The school is MASSIVE and gorgeous, especially on the outside. I met a lot of the teachers as well as the principal. I am the only language assistant in my school so I will be teaching both the younger kids and the older kids, as well as giving some lessons to the teachers that want to practice their English. My role is to basically get all of the kids speaking in English and helping them to improve their fluency. All of the kids at some point have to take English exams like the Cambridge Exam so it’s my job to help them prepare for it. I’m a little upset that they weren’t able to give me Fridays off but oh well, I suppose I am here to actually work and not just take a 10-month vacation to Spain. I figure if I want to travel, I can travel around Spain those weekends and save my international trips for long holidays. I love Madrid so much so far that I’m perfectly content with staying here on weekends.
Probably my biggest news so far is that I found my piso (apartment)!!! I moved in yesterday and I’m all settled in, I just need to buy things for my room. On Sunday I started to contact ads on Idealista (one of Spain’s apartment-finding websites) to schedule appointments to view the apartments. I saw one on Sunday night and two on Monday. My apartment was the first one I saw on Monday. It’s with two Spanish girls, both 24, who go to the university in Madrid. I’ve only met one girl so far because the other one is in Japan until next month but they’re both friends. The one I already know is super nice and is already inviting me out with her friends. It’s also very helpful that she knows English so she switches to it when she knows I don’t understand (which has been most of the time) but I’m hoping that my Spanish will improve by living with her. My apartment is also in the perfect location. It’s five minutes walking to the metro line that I need to take to my school as well as the line that goes to Sol (the very center of the city). On my street there’s a grocery store, a pharmacy, and even an American 50s diner–random, but very cool. It’s also 5 minutes walking from the hostel I stayed at which was in the center of a lot of things, and it also made it very easy to move from the hostel into my apartment. Not including utilities, it’s only 366 Euros a month which is about $490! I find it incredible that you can live in the center of Madrid for that price! I am very very happy with my apartment! The three major things I was looking for were: Spanish roommates (preferably girls my age), a good location, and within my price range, and I got all three!! It’s so nice to not be living out of my suitcase anymore, too.
So I think that lengthy update pretty much covers everything! I’m seriously loving my life here. The past week has been a ton of sitting at cafes for hours with friends, exploring the nightlife, tapas, sangria, and just getting to know my new city better. It has been a very smooth transition and I couldn’t be happier with this decision at this point in my life. I know a lot of you are a little curious as to why I chose to pick up and move to a foreign country, so here is a link to my first blog post where I explain everything. Talk to you all soon!